Read CHAPTER I. The Great Big Man of The Boy Scouts Book of Stories , free online book, by Franklin Mathiews, on ReadCentral.com.

By Owen Johnson

THE noon bell was about to ring, the one glorious spring note of that inexorable “Gym” bell that ruled the school with its iron tongue. For at noon, on the first liberating stroke, the long winter term died and the Easter vacation became a fact.

Inside Memorial Hall the impatient classes stirred nervously, counting off the minutes, sitting gingerly on the seat-edges for fear of wrinkling the carefully pressed suits or shifting solicitously the sharpened trousers in peril of a bagging at the knees. Heavens! how interminable the hour was, sitting there in a planked shirt and a fashion-high collar and what a recitation! Would Easter ever begin, that long-coveted vacation when the growing boy, according to theory, goes home to rest from the fatiguing draining of his brain, but in reality returns exhausted by dinners, dances, and theaters, with perhaps a little touch of the measles to exchange with his neighbors. Even the masters droned through the perfunctory exercises, flunking the boys by twos and threes, by groups, by long rows, but without malice or emotion.

Outside, in the roadway, by the steps, waited a long, incongruous line of vehicles, scraped together from every stable in the countryside, forty-odd. A few buggies for nabobs in the Upper House, two-seated rigs (holding eight), country buckboards, excursion wagons to be filled according to capacity at twenty-five cents the trip, hacks from Trenton, and the regulation stage-coach all piled high with bags and suitcases, waiting for the bell that would start them on the scramble for the Trenton station, five miles away. At the horses’ heads the lazy negroes lolled, drawing languid puffs from their cigarettes, unconcerned.

Suddenly the bell rang out, and the supine teamsters, galvanizing into life, jumped to their seats. The next moment, down the steps, pell-mell, scrambling and scuffling, swarming over the carriages, with joyful clamor, the school arrived. In an instant the first buggies were off, with whips frantically plied, disputing at a gallop the race to Trenton.

Then the air was filled with shouts.

“Where’s Butsey?”

“Oh, you, Red Dog!”

“Where’s my bag?”

“Jump in!”

“Oh, we’ll never get there!”

“Drive on!”

“Don’t wait!”

“Where’s Jack?”

“Hurry up, you loafer!”

“Hurry up, you butter-fingers!”

“Get in!”

“Pile in!”

“Haul him in!”

“We’re off!”

“Hurrah!”

Wagon after wagon, crammed with joyful boyhood, disappeared in a cloud of dust, while back returned a confused uproar of broken cheers, snatches of songs, with whoops and shrieks for more speed dominating the whole. The last load rollicked away to join the mad race, where far ahead a dozen buggies, with foam-flecked horses, vied with one another, their youthful jockeys waving their hats, hurling defiance back and forth, or shrieking with delight as each antagonist was caught and left behind.

The sounds of striving died away, the campus grew still once more. The few who had elected to wait until after luncheon scattered hurriedly about the circle and disappeared in the houses, to fling last armfuls into the already bursting trunks.

On top of Memorial steps the Great Big Man remained, solitary and marooned, gazing over the fields, down the road to Trenton, where still the rising dust-clouds showed the struggle toward vacation. He stood like a monument, gazing fixedly, struggling with all the might of his twelve years to conquer the awful feeling of homesickness that came to him. Homesickness the very word was an anomaly: what home had he to go to? An orphan without ever having known his father, scarcely remembering his mother in the hazy reflections of years, little Joshua Tibbets had arrived at the school at the beginning of the winter term, to enter the shell, and gradually pass through the forms in six or seven years.

The boys of the Dickinson, after a glance at his funny little body and his plaintive, doglike face, had baptized him the “Great Big Man” (Big Man for short), and had elected him the child of the house.

He had never known what homesickness was before. He had had a premonition of it, perhaps, from time to time during the last week, wondering a little in the classroom as each day Snorky Green, beside him, calculated the days until Easter, then the hours, then the minutes. He had watched him with an amused, uncomprehending interest. Why was he so anxious to be off? After all, he, the Big Man, found it a pleasant place, after the wearisome life from hotel to hotel. He liked the boys; they were kind to him, and looked after his moral and spiritual welfare with bluff but affectionate solicitude. It is true, one was always hungry, and only ten and a half hours’ sleep was a refinement of cruelty unworthy of a great institution. But it was pleasant running over to the jigger-shop and doing errands for giants like Reiter and Butcher Stevens, with the privileges of the commission. He liked to be tumbled in the grass by the great tackle of the football eleven, or thrown gently from arm to arm like a medicine-ball, quits for the privileges of pommeling his big friends ad libitum and without fear of reprisals. And then what a privilege to be allowed to run out on the field and fetch the nose-guard or useless bandage, thrown down haphazard, with the confidence that he, the Big Man, was there to fetch and guard! Then he was permitted to share their studies, to read slowly from handy, literal translations, his head cushioned on the Egghead’s knee, while the lounging group swore genially at Pius AEneas or sympathized with Catiline. He shagged elusive balls and paraded the bats at shoulder-arms. He opened the mail, and sorted it, fetching the bag from Farnum’s. He was even allowed to stand treat to the mighty men of the house whenever the change in his pocket became too heavy for comfort.

In return he was taught to box, to wind tennis rackets, to blacken shoes, to crease trousers, and sew on the buttons of the house. Nothing was lacking to his complete happiness.

Then lately he had begun to realize that there was something else in the school life, outside it, but very much a part of it vacation.

At first the idea of quitting such a fascinating life was quite incomprehensible to him. What gorging dinner-party could compare with the thrill of feasting at midnight on crackers and cheese, deviled ham, boned chicken, mince pie and root beer, by the light of a solitary candle, with the cracks of the doors and windows smothered with rugs and blankets, listening at every mouthful for the tread of the master that sometimes (oh, acme of delight!) actually passed unsuspectingly by the door?

Still, there was a joy in leaving all this. He began to notice it distinctly when the trunks were hauled from the cellar and the packing began. The packing what a lark that had been! He had folded so many coats and trousers, carefully, in their creases, under Macnooder’s generous instructions, and, perched on the edge of the banisters like a queer little marmoset, he had watched Wash Simmons throw great armfuls of assorted clothing into the trays and churn them into place with a baseball bat, while the Triumphant Egghead carefully built up his structure with nicety and tenderness. Only he, the Big Man, sworn to secrecy, knew what Hickey had surreptitiously inserted in the bottom of Egghead’s trunk, and also what, from the depths of Wash’s muddled clothing, would greet the fond mother or sister who did the unpacking; and every time he thought of it he laughed one of those laughs that pain. Then gleefully he had watched Macnooder stretching a strap until it burst with consequences dire, to the complete satisfaction of Hickey, Turkey, Wash, and the Egghead, who, embracing fondly on the top of another trunk, were assisting Butcher Stevens to close an impossible gap.

Yet into all this amusement a little strain of melancholy had stolen. Here was a sensation of which he was not part, an emotion he did not know. Still, his imagination did not seize it; he could not think of the halls quiet, with no familiar figures lolling out of the windows, or a campus unbrokenly green.

Now from his lonely eerie on Memorial steps, looking down the road to vacation, the Great Big Man suddenly understood understood and felt. It was he who had gone away, not they. The school he loved was not with him, but roaring down to Trenton. No one had thought to invite him for a visit; but then, why should any one?

“I’m only a runt, after all,” he said, angrily, to himself. He stuck his fists deep in his pockets, and went down the steps like a soldier and across the campus chanting valorously the football slogan:

Bill kicked,
Dunham kicked.
They both kicked together,
But Bill kicked mighty hard.
Flash ran,
Charlie ran,
Then Pennington lost her grip;
She also lost the championship
Siss, boom, ah!

After all, he could sleep late; that was something. Then in four days the baseball squad would return, and there would be long afternoon practices to watch, lolling on the turf, with an occasional foul to retrieve. He would read “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and follow “The Three Musketeers” through a thousand far-off adventures, and “Lorna Doone,” there was always the great John Ridd, bigger even than Turkey or the Waladoo Bird.

He arrived resolutely at the Dickinson, and started up the deserted stairs for his room. There was only one thing he feared; he did not want Mrs. Rogers, wife of the housemaster, to “mother” him. Anything but that! He was glad that after luncheon he would have to take his meals at the Lodge. That would avert embarrassing situations, for whatever his friends might think, he, the Great Big Man, was a runt in stature only.

To express fully the excessive gayety he enjoyed, he tramped to his room, bawling out:

“’Tis a jolly life we lead,
Care and sorrow we defy.”

All at once a gruff voice spoke:

“My what a lot of noise for a Great Big Man!”

The Big Man stopped thunderstruck. The voice came from Butcher Stevens’ room. Cautiously he tiptoed down the hall and paused, with his funny little nose and eyes peering around the door-jamb. Sure enough, there was Butcher, and there were the Butcher’s trunks and bags. What could it mean?

“I say,” he began, according to etiquette, “is that you, Butcher?”

“Very much so, Big Man.”

“What are you doing here?”

“The faculty, Big Man, desire my presence,” said the Butcher, sarcastically. “They would like my expert advice on a few problems that are perplexing them.”

“Ah,” said the Great Big Man, slowly. Then he understood. The Butcher had been caught two nights before returning by Sawtelle’s window at a very late hour. He did not know exactly the facts because he had been told not to be too inquisitive, and he was accustomed to obeying instructions. Supposing the faculty should expel him! To the Big Man such a sentence meant the end of all things, something too horrible to contemplate. So he said, “Oh, Butcher, is it serious?”

“Rather, youngster; rather, I should say.”

“What will the baseball team do?” said the Big Man, overwhelmed.

“That’s what’s worrying me,” replied the crack first-baseman, gloomily. He rose and went to the window, where he stood beating a tattoo.

“You don’t suppose Crazy Opdyke could cover the bag, do you?” said the Big Man.

“Not in a lifetime.”

“How about Stubby?”

“Too short.”

“They might do something with the Waladoo.”

“Not for first; he can’t stop anything below his knees.”

“Then I don’t see how we’re going to beat Andover, Butcher.”

“It does look bad.”

“Do you think the faculty will will ”

“Fire me? Pretty certain, youngster.”

“Oh, Butcher!”

“Trouble is, they’ve got the goods on me dead to rights.”

“But does the Doctor know how it’ll break up the nine?”

Butcher laughed loudly.

“He doesn’t ap-preciate that, youngster.”

“No,” said the Big Man, reflectively. “They never do, do they?”

The luncheon bell rang, and they hurried down. The Big Man was overwhelmed by the discovery. If Butcher didn’t cover first, how could they ever beat Andover and the Princeton freshmen? Even Hill School and Pennington might trounce them. He fell into a brown melancholy, until suddenly he caught the sympathetic glance of Mrs. Rogers on him, and for fear that she would think it was due to his own weakness, he began to chat volubly.

He had always been a little in awe of the Butcher. Not that the Butcher had not been friendly; but he was so blunt and rough and unbending that he rather repelled intimacy. He watched him covertly, admiring the bravado with which he pretended unconcern. It must be awful to be threatened with expulsion and actually to be expelled, to have your whole life ruined, once and forever. The Big Man’s heart was stirred. He said to himself that he had not been sympathetic enough, and he resolved to repair the error. So, luncheon over, he said with an appearance of carelessness:

“I say, old man, come on over to the jigger-shop. I’ll set ’em up. I’m pretty flush, you know.”

The Butcher looked down at the funny face and saw the kindly motive under the exaggerated bluffness. Being touched by it, he said gruffly:

“Well; come on, then, you old billionaire!”

The Big Man felt a great movement of sympathy in him for his big comrade. He would have liked to slip his little fist in the great brown hand and say something appropriate, only he could think of nothing appropriate. Then he remembered that among men there should be no letting down, no sentimentality. So he lounged along, squinting up at the Butcher and trying to copy his rolling gait.

At the jigger-shop, Al lifted his eyebrows in well-informed disapproval, saying curtly:

“What are you doing here, you Butcher, you?”

“Building up my constitution,” said Stevens, with a frown. “I’m staying because I like it, of course. Lawrenceville is just lovely at Easter: spring birds and violets, and that sort of thing.”

“You’re a nice one,” said Al, a baseball enthusiast. “Why couldn’t you behave until after the Andover game?”

“Of course; but you needn’t rub it in,” replied the Butcher, staring at the floor. “Give me a double strawberry, and heave it over.”

Al, seeing him not insensible, relented. He added another dab to the double jigger already delivered, and said, shoving over the glass:

“It’s pretty hard luck on the team, Butcher. There’s no one hereabouts can hold down the bag like you. Heard anything definite?”

“No.”

“What do you think?”

“I’d hate to say.”

“Is any one doing anything?”

“Cap Kiefer is to see the Doctor to-night.”

“I say, Butcher,” said the Big Man, in sudden fear, “you won’t go up to Andover and play against us, will you?”

“Against the school! Well, rather not!” said the Butcher, indignantly. Then he added: “No; if they fire me, I know what I’ll do.”

The Big Man wondered if he contemplated suicide; that must be the natural thing to do when one is expelled. He felt that he must keep near Butcher, close all the day. So he made bold to wander about with him, watching him with solicitude.

They stopped at Lalo’s for a hot dog, and lingered at Bill Appleby’s, where the Butcher mournfully tried the new mits and swung the bats with critical consideration. Then feeling hungry, they trudged up to Conover’s for pancakes and syrup. Everywhere was the same feeling of dismay; what would become of the baseball nine? Then it suddenly dawned upon the Big Man that no one seemed to be sorry on the Butcher’s account. He stopped with a pancake poised on his fork, looked about to make sure no one could hear him, and blurted out:

“I say, Butcher, it’s not only on account of first base, you know; I’m darn sorry for you, honest!”

“Why, you profane little cuss,” said the Butcher, frowning, “who told you to swear?”

“Don’t make fun of me, Butcher,” said the Great Big Man, feeling very little; “I meant it.”

“Conover,” said the Butcher, loudly, “more pancakes, and brown ’em!”

He, too, had been struck by the fact that in the general mourning there had been scant attention paid to his personal fortunes. He had prided himself on the fact that he was not susceptible to “feelings,” that he neither gave nor asked for sympathy. He was older than his associates, but years had never reconciled him to Latin or Greek or, for that matter, to mathematics in simple or aggravated form. He had been the bully of his village out in northern Iowa, and when a stranger came, he trounced him first, and cemented the friendship afterward. He liked hard knocks, give and take. He liked the school because there was the long football season in the autumn, with the joy of battling, with every sinew of the body alert and the humming of cheers indistinctly heard, as he rammed through the yielding line. Then the spring meant long hours of romping over the smooth diamond, cutting down impossible hits, guarding first base like a bull-dog, pulling down the high ones, smothering the wild throws that came ripping along the ground, threatening to jump up against his eyes, throws that other fellows dodged. He was in the company of equals, of good fighters, like Charley De Soto, Hickey, Flash Condit, and Turkey, fellows it was a joy to fight beside. Also, it was good to feel that four hundred-odd wearers of the red and black put their trust in him, and that trust became very sacred to him. He played hard very hard, but cleanly, because combat was the joy of life to him. He broke other rules, not as a lark, but out of the same fierce desire for battle, to seek out danger wherever he could find it. He had been caught fair and square, and he knew that for that particular offense there was only one punishment. Yet he hoped against hope, suddenly realizing what it would cost him to give up the great school where, however, he had never sought friendships or anything beyond the admiration of his mates.

The sympathy of the Big Man startled him, then made him uncomfortable. He had no intention of crying out, and he did not like or understand the new emotion that rose in him as he wondered when his sentence would come.

“Well, youngster,” he said, gruffly, “had enough? Have another round?”

“I’ve had enough,” said the Big Man, heaving a sigh. “Let me treat, Butcher.”

“Not to-day, youngster.”

“Butcher, I I’d like to. I’m awfully flush.”

“Not to-day.”

“Let’s match for it.”

“What!” said the Butcher, fiercely. “Don’t let me hear any more of that talk. You’ve got to grow up first.”

The Big Man, thus rebuked, acquiesced meekly. The two strolled back to the campus in silence.

“Suppose we have a catch,” said the Big Man, tentatively.

“All right,” said the Butcher, smiling.

Intrenched behind a gigantic mit, the Big Man strove valorously to hold the difficult balls. After a long period of this mitigated pleasure they sat down to rest. Then Cap Kiefer’s stocky figure appeared around the Dickinson, and the Butcher went off for a long, solemn consultation.

The Big Man, thus relieved of responsibility, felt terribly alone. He went to his room and took down volume two of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and stretched out on the window-seat. Somehow the stupendous adventures failed to enthrall him. It was still throughout the house. He caught himself listening for the patter of Hickey’s shoes above, dancing a breakdown, or the rumble of Egghead’s laugh down the hall, or a voice calling, “Who can lend me a pair of suspenders?”

And the window was empty. It seemed so strange to look up from the printed page and find no one in the Woodhull opposite, shaving painfully at the window, or lolling like himself over a novel, all the time keeping an eye on the life below. He could not jeer at Two Inches Brown and Crazy Opdyke practicing curves, nor assure them that the Dickinson nine would just fatten on those easy ones. No one halloed from house to house, no voice below drawled out:

“Oh, you Great Big Man! Stick your head out of the window!”

There was no one to call across for the time o’ day, or for just a nickel to buy stamps, or for the loan of a baseball glove, or a sweater, or a collar button, scissors, button-hook, or fifty and one articles that are never bought but borrowed.

The Great Big Man let “The Count of Monte Cristo” tumble unheeded on the floor, seized a tennis ball, and went across the campus to the esplanade of the Upper House, where for half an hour he bounced the ball against the rim of the ledge, a privilege that only a fourth former may enjoy. Tiring of this, he wandered down to the pond, where he skimmed innumerable flat stones until he had exhausted the attractions of this limited amusement.

“I I’m getting homesick,” he admitted finally. “I wish I had a dog something living around.”

At supper-time he saw the Butcher again, and forgot his own loneliness in the concern he felt for his big friend. He remembered that the Butcher had said that if he were expelled he knew what he would do. What had he meant by that? Something terrible. He glanced up at the Butcher, and, being very apprehensive, made bold to ask:

“Butcher, I say, what does Cap think?”

“He hasn’t seen the Doctor yet,” said the Butcher. “He’ll see him to-night. I guess I’ll go over myself, just to leave a calling-card accordin’ to et-iquette!”

The Big Man kept his own counsel, but when the Butcher, after dinner, disappeared through the awful portal of Foundation House, he sat down in the dark under a distant tree to watch. In a short five minutes the Butcher reappeared, stood a moment undecided on the steps, stooped, picked up a handful of gravel, flung it into the air with a laugh, and started along the circle.

“Butcher!”

“Hello, who’s that!”

“It’s me, Butcher,” said the Big Man, slipping his hand into the other’s; “I I wanted to know.”

“You aren’t going to get sentimental, are you, youngster?” said Stevens, disapprovingly.

“Please, Butcher,” said the Great Big Man, pleadingly, “don’t be cross with me! Is there any hope?”

“The Doctor won’t see me, young one,” said the Butcher, “but the at-mosphere was not encouraging.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Honest?”

“Honest.”

They went hand in hand over to the chapel, where they chose the back steps and settled down with the great walls at their back and plenty of gravel at their feet to fling aimlessly into the dusky night.

“Butcher?”

“Well, Big Man!”

“What will you do if if they fire you?”

“Oh, lots of things. I’ll go hunting for gold somewhere, or strike out for South America or Africa.”

“Oh!” The Big Man was immensely relieved; but he added incredulously, “Then you’ll give up football and baseball?”

“Looks that way.”

“You won’t mind?”

“Yes,” said the Butcher, suddenly, “I will mind. I’ll hate to leave the old school. I’d like to have one chance more.”

“Why don’t you tell the Doctor that?”

“Never! I don’t cry out when I’m caught, youngster. I take my punishment.”

“Yes,” said the Big Man, reflecting. “That’s right, I suppose; but, then, there’s the team to think of, you know.”

They sat for a long time in silence, broken suddenly by the Butcher’s voice, not so gruff as usual.

“Say, Big Man feeling sort of homesick?”

No answer.

“Just a bit?”

Still no answer. The Butcher looked down, and saw the Big Man struggling desperately to hold in the sobs.

“Here, none of that, youngster!” he exclaimed in alarm. “Brace up, old man!”

“I I’m all right,” said the Great Big Man with difficulty. “It’s nothing.”

The Butcher patted him on the shoulder, and then drew his arm around the little body. The Big Man put his head down and blubbered, just as though he had been a little fellow, while his companion sat perplexed, wondering what to do or say in the strange situation.

“So he’s a little homesick, is he?” he said lamely.

“N-o-o,” said the Great Big Man, “not just that; it’s it’s all the fellows I miss.”

The Butcher was silent. He, too, began to understand that feeling; only he, in his battling pride, resisted fiercely the weakness.

“You’ve got an uncle somewhere, haven’t you, youngster?” he said gently. “Doesn’t he look after you in vacation-time?”

“I don’t miss him,” replied the Big Man, shaking his head. Then he pulled himself together and said apologetically: “It’s just being left behind that makes me such a damned cry-baby.”

“Youngster,” said the Butcher, sternly, “your language is at-rocious. Such words do not sound well in the mouth of a suckling of your size.”

“I didn’t mean to,” said the Big Man, blushing.

“You must leave something to grow up for, young man,” said the Butcher, profoundly. “Now tell me about that uncle of yours. I don’t fancy his silhouette.”

The Great Big Man, thus encouraged, poured out his lonely starved little heart, while the Butcher listened sympathetically, feeling a certain comfort in sitting with his arm around a little fellow-being. Not that he was sensible of giving much comfort; his comments, he felt, were certainly inadequate; nor did he measure in any way up to the situation.

“Now it’s better, eh, Big Man?” he said at last when the little fellow had stopped. “Does you sort of good to talk things out.”

“Oh, yes; thank you, Butcher.”

“All right, then, youngster.”

“All right. I say, you you don’t ever feel that way, do you homesick, I mean?”

“Not much.”

“You’ve got a home, haven’t you?”

“Quite too much, young one. If they fire me, I’ll keep away from there. Strike out for myself.”

“Of course, then, it’s different.”

“Young one,” said the Butcher, suddenly, “that’s not quite honest. If I have to clear out of here, it will cut me up con-siderable.”

“Honest?”

“A fact. I didn’t know it before; but it will cut me up to strike out and leave all this behind. I want another chance; and do you know why?”

“Why?”

“I’d like to make friends. Oh, I haven’t got any real friends, youngster; you needn’t shake your head. It’s my fault. I know it. You’re the first mortal soul who cared what became of me. All the rest are thinking of the team.”

“Now, Butcher ”

“Don’t think I’m crying out!” said the Butcher, in instant alarm. “It’s all been up to me. Truth is, I’ve been too darned proud. But I’d like to get another whack at it.”

“Perhaps you will, Butcher.”

“No, no, there’s no reason why I should.” The Butcher sat solemnly a moment, flinging pebbles down into the dark tennis courts. Suddenly he said: “Look here, Big Man, I’m going to give you some good advice.”

“All right, Butcher.”

“And I want you to tuck it away in your thinker savez? You’re a nice kid now, a good sort, but you’ve got a lot of chances for being spoiled. Don’t get fresh. Don’t get a swelled head just because a lot of the older fellows let you play around. There’s nothing so hateful in the sight of God or man as a fresh kid.”

“You don’t think ” began the Big Man in dismay.

“No; you’re all right now. You’re quiet, and don’t tag around, and you’re a good sort, darned if you aren’t, and that’s why I don’t want to see you spoiled. Now a straight question: Do you smoke?”

“Why, that is well, Butcher, I did try once a puff on Snookers’ cigarette.”

“You ought to be spanked!” said the Butcher, angrily. “And when I get hold of Snookers, I’ll tan him. The idea of his letting you! Don’t you monkey around tobacco yet a while. First of all, it’s fresh, and second, you’ve got to grow. You want to make a team, don’t you, while you’re here?”

“O-o-h!” said the Great Big Man with a long sigh.

“Then just stick to growing, ’Cause you’ve got work cut out for you there. Now I’m not preachin’; I’m saying that you want to fill out and grow up and do something. Harkee.”

“All right.”

“Cut out Snookers and that gang. Pick out the fellows that count, as you go along, and just remember this, if you forget the rest: if you want to put ducks in Tabby’s bed or nail down his desk, do it because you want to do it, not because some other fellow wants you to do it. D’ye hear?”

“Yes, Butcher.”

“Remember that, youngster; if I’d stuck to it, I’d kept out of a peck of trouble.” He reflected a moment and added: “Then I’d study a little. It’s not a bad thing, I guess, in the long run, and it gets the masters on your side. And now jump up, and we’ll trot home.”

The following night the Big Man, again under his tree, waited for the result of the conference that was going on inside Foundation House between the Doctor and the Butcher and Cap Kiefer. It was long, very long. The minutes went slowly, and it was very dark there, with hardly a light showing in the circle of houses that ordinarily seemed like a procession of lighted ferry-boats. After an interminable hour, the Butcher and Cap came out. He needed no word to tell what their attitudes showed only too plainly: the Butcher was expelled!

The Big Man waited until the two had passed into the night, and then, with a sudden resolve, went bravely to the doorbell and rang. Before he quite appreciated the audacity of his act, he found himself in the sanctum facing a much-perplexed head master.

“Doctor, I I ” The Big Man stopped, overwhelmed by the awful majesty of the Doctor, on whose face still sat the grimness of the past conference.

“Well, Joshua, what’s the matter?” said the head master, relaxing a bit before one of his favorites.

“Please, sir, I’m a little a little embarrassed, I’m afraid,” said the Great Big Man, desperately.

“Am I so terrible as all that?” said the Doctor, smiling.

“Yes, sir you are,” the Big Man replied frankly. Then he said, plunging in, “Doctor, is the Butcher is Stevens are you going to expel him?”

“That is my painful duty, Joshua,” said the Doctor, frowning.

“Oh, Doctor,” said the Big Man all in a breath, “you don’t know you’re making a mistake.”

“I am? Why, Joshua?”

“Because you don’t know. Because the Butcher won’t tell you, he’s too proud, sir; because he doesn’t want to cry out, sir.”

“What do you mean exactly?” said the Doctor in surprise. “Does Stevens know you’re here?”

“Oh, Heavens, no, sir!” said the Big Man in horror. “And you must never tell him, sir; that would be too terrible.”

“Joshua,” said the Doctor, impressively, “I am expelling Stevens because he is just the influence I don’t want boys of your age to come under.”

“Oh, yes, sir,” said the Big Man, “I know you think that, sir; but really, Doctor, that’s where you are wrong; really you are, sir.”

The Doctor saw there was something under the surface, and he encouraged the little fellow to talk. The Big Man, forgetting all fear in the seriousness of the situation, told the listening head master all the Butcher’s conversation with him on the chapel steps the night before told it simply and eloquently, with an ardor that bespoke absolute faith. Then suddenly he stopped.

“That’s all, sir,” he said, frightened.

The Doctor rose and walked back and forth, troubled and perplexed. There was no doubting the sincerity of the recital: it was a side of Stevens he had not guessed. Finally he turned and rested his hand on the Big Man’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” he said; “it does put another light on the question. I’ll think it over.”

When, ten days later, the school came trickling home along the road from vacation, they saw, against all hope, the Butcher holding down first base, frolicking over the diamond in the old familiar way, and a great shout of joy and relief went up. But how it had happened no one ever knew, least of all Cap and the Butcher, who had gone from Foundation House that night in settled despair.

To add to Butcher’s mystification, the Doctor, in announcing his reprieve, had added:

“I’ve decided to make a change, Stevens. I’m going to put Tibbetts in to room with you. I place him in your charge. I’m going to try a little responsibility on you.”